UG Economic Development Director Katharine Carttar will not have to live in Wyandotte County while her husband, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, is in office, according to Unified Government officials.
UG Administrator Doug Bach said during the 5 p.m. UG special session on Thursday, June 24, that he was making a temporary exception for Carttar based on her situation.
He said during the past 20 years there have been several exemptions to the residency rule.
“In the case of Ms. Carttar, she wants to live in Wyandotte County. However, due to her husband’s employment, he also has a residency requirement. She has expressed her clear desire to keep her job, but also would like to live with her husband and raise their son together,” Bach said.
Bach said he thinks Lucas’s residency requirement trumps the UG’s residency requirement, and a temporary waiver of the UG residency requirement will be made while he is the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. When Lucas no longer holds the position of mayor, Bach said it is his expectation that Carttar would reside in Wyandotte County.
“I do believe this is the right thing to do for this employee,” Bach said at the meeting.
Commissioner Tom Burroughs asked about other residency situations with legal challenges.
Bach said there had been legal challenges when the UG terminated employees that did not comply with residency. He said those were all situations where there was no “ask,” and the employees decided to live somewhere else without asking the UG administration.
Misty Brown, the UG’s chief legal counsel, said none of the previous cases had challenged a request for a waiver, they just challenged a termination for violation of the residency rule.
Commissioner Burroughs said the UG has been trying to recruit public safety employees, and many times employees have spouses who live outside the community and could not move into the community. He asked how the situation with Carttar was different from that.
Bach said the difference is that Carttar was already employed with the UG, and with the birth of her son, and the situation with her spouse, who was also under a residency requirement, put her in a position of whether to leave the UG position or not live in the same household with the spouse.
Bach said there are cases where people in public safety are being recruited, with the spouse living in another community, but the difference is Carttar’s case was pre-existing employment versus someone not already employed here.
He said there are changes they might consider to the policy in the future based on reciprocity to other jurisdictions, but that was not under discussion at Thursday’s meeting.
Commissioner Burroughs said as the UG moves forward with other personnel, he hopes they don’t see an exodus of personnel to other communities. He didn’t see this as much different from other cases of residency requirements, he said. He said he had a tremendous respect for Carttar and her husband, but his responsibility was to the citizens of Wyandotte County.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum supported Bach’s decision.
“We have a professional employee who I think we could all agree is performing at a very high level,” Commissioner Bynum said. “In 2020, we were not only experiencing a pandemic, but our employee was instrumental in bringing our county to near record levels of capital investment. Historically, we have examples of allowances being made for other UG employees, and why would we ask this professional to choose between her child and husband, and a job that she performs at a high level that benefits every single one of us? That’s the question I put in front of everyone.”
She said it was a unique situation with a spouse who could not move, so there were no options on the table. The situation forced a choice between a professional choosing between her spouse and child and her job, and that was “patently unfair,” she said.
“What you’re proposing is a very narrow carve-out, and it has a finite ending to it,” Commissioner Bynum said. “It is not into perpetuity.”
Commissioner Christian Ramirez said the residency requirement has been an issue for a long time in the community.
At first, Ramirez said he was not in support of the exception, as the majority of the community supports a residency requirement. But it is a temporary exemption, with a finite end, tied to Mayor Lucas’s term as mayor, he said. Ramirez asked if it would end at one term or more.
Bach said it would be tied to Mayor Lucas’s time as mayor, and there is a two-term limit in Missouri. He said it would not apply to any other offices Mayor Lucas might hold in the future.
Ramirez said he was on the fence but he would support it because it had a finite end.
“It’s hard to find an employee like Katharine,” Ramirez said, “employees that are compassionate and passionate about the work they do in the community that they serve. It would be very hard to replace Katharine for all the work she’s done.”
Bach said this exception was made for Carttar’s unique situation, not based on her skill sets. He said this is a unique situation.
To view more details of this meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-aJI8KyPh8.